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Platform businesses: a guide

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Platform businesses, such as Amazon, have disrupted many industries. How can you take advantage of such platforms?


This guide explores the characteristics of platform businesses and the importance of different aspects of trust in making them work. It concludes with five actions that will help you consider the opportunities they provide.

The idea of connecting disparate willing buyers with willing sellers without being party to their contractual relationship, is a defining feature of a platform business. To be successful they must generate competence trust, the ability to deliver the promised outcome, and goodwill trust by behaving fairly. Ratings and reviews provide an important mechanism in generating trust and need to be carefully considered.

Actions to take in determining how to work with platforms include, mapping the platforms around you and examining the skills and organisational structures you need to develop.

The guide was prepared by Chris Ford, academic, writer and entrepreneur. He is a Chartered Accountant, who set up his own adventure travel business before selling it and becoming a lecturer in Accounting and Management at Lancaster University. Chris is a Cabinet Office Policy Fellow, Academic Advisor to the Institute for Outdoor Learning and Academic board member of ICAEW’s Business and Management Faculty. His research into the performance of platforms, ecosystems and open innovation led to a prestigious prize for Best Innovation Paper from the British Academy of Management in 2018.

Related Resources

  • Business Ecosystems: A Guide (Faculty only)
  • Business performance management: working with tensions (open access)
Platform business: a guide

Business and Management faculty members can download this guide in full.